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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

W. Kamau Bell Tries Not to Step On the Jokes of a Famous Comedian Who Is Not as Famous as He Thinks He Is

Posted By on Wed, Aug 17, 2011 at 7:30 AM


FAMOUS COMEDIAN WHO IS NOT AS FAMOUS AS HE THINKS HE IS: So I talk about Twitter, Facebook, the Internet, Snooki, weed, Jay-Z, Batman, Paris Hilton, mowing the lawn, sprinklers, going to the doctor, going to the grocery, cheese ...

I was in the green room of a comedy club. I was a last minute replacement in a show because FCWINAFAHTEI's regular feature couldn't make it. I didn't really want to do the gig, but I needed the $100. Yes, comics are rich.

FCWINAFAHTEI was listing his joke subjects to make sure we didn't have the same ones. No, this is not a common occurrence.

Most headliners feel like it doesn't matter what you do, that the audience is there for them. This was weird. What comic doesn't have jokes about the Internet?

FCWINAFAHTEI: ... Barack Obama ...

ME: Ummm ... I have a couple jokes about Barack Obama. (Understatement of the year.)

Don't get me wrong: There are certainly times when a headliner will ask/tell you not to do one of your jokes that directly conflicts with one of theirs. It doesn't matter that it's your opening line and he just throws it in the middle and could easily not do it. Dem's da rules. And comics certainly overlap. I remember when three San Francisco comics had nearly the exact same WOW potato chips joke. None of them had stolen it from the other. It's just there are only so many ways to write an anal leakage joke.

FCWINAFAHTEI: OK, that's fine ... (Then he overhears the opener. Yes, this was minutes before I was to be introduced.) What did he just say?

Me: I think he just said "gay."

FCWINAFAHTEI: Well he can't do that joke anymore. I have a joke about gay people.

Me: I'm sure your joke will still work after his.

FCWINAFAHTEI: I know it will because my joke is way better. (He proceeds to tell the joke.) But I don't like anybody touching my subjects. I like to go up there with a fresh stage.


I then explain to FCWINAFAHTEI that there is actually a solution for that. It's called a solo show. I hand him my card and go over my directing rates.*

At this point the opener is literally announcing my name. I say I have to go.

FCWINAFAHTEI: Also, no jokes about kids. I have a whole thing about that.

I respond "Then you better make sure never to get Bill Cosby to open for you."*

I take the stage confused and bemused and a little pissed since I just had a new baby and I was only really excited about doing those jokes. Each joke I perform that night I keep thinking, "Wait ... is there a Paris Hilton reference in here that I'm forgetting? Does it count if I say Facebook but the joke is not actually about Facebook?"

Ultimately, I wanted to respect his wishes because that's how I was raised -- in and out of comedy -- but also I wanted to tell FCWINAFAHTEI thanks but no thanks, pick up what was left of my self-respect and go home, but I didn't. See, I really needed that hundred bucks.

* No, I didn't.

Kamau's Komedy Korner is a weekly blog column about San Francisco comedy by W. Kamau Bell. Check back next Wednesday for more.

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W. Kamau Bell


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